This Month In Science

Behavioral Research Earns a Top Berth in Comparative Effectiveness Research Priorities

The report identifies 100 priority health questions to be addressed by comparative effectiveness research, to guide the spending of $400 million allocated to the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

By Patricia Kobor

The Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on Initial National Priorities for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) issued its report and recommendations on June 30, 2009. The report identifies 100 priority health questions to be addressed by comparative effectiveness research, to guide the spending of $400 million allocated to the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act also provided the National Institutes of Health with $400 million and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality with $300 million for CER. As both NIH and AHRQ fund CER already, the added funds will be spent according to existing guidelines and priority systems, although the recent report is likely to be influential.

Using a public submission and public meeting process, the committee received 1,268 unique topic suggestions. From those suggestions, the 100 priority areas were identified. Many of these areas involve behavioral research, including:

  • Compare the effectiveness of pharmacologic treatment and behavioral interventions in managing major depressive disorders in adolescents and adults in diverse treatment settings.

  • Compare the effectiveness of different strategies for promoting breastfeeding among low-income African American women.

  • Compare the effectiveness of adding information about new biomarkers (including genetic information) with standard care in motivating behavior change and improving clinical outcomes.

The committee also made recommendations about ensuring an appropriate infrastructure for supporting CER and developing an ongoing process to set priorities for research. In addition, the report recommends finding ways to include the public in the priority setting and oversight of CER, including effective coordination and governance among the agencies and disciplines, building and sustaining a skilled work force for conducting the research, and ensuring adequate resources for CER.

APA President James Bray presented testimony on behalf of APA at a public meeting of the IOM committee on March 20, 2009. The written statement appears in the IOM report.

The Institute of Medicine's recommendations will be considered by the Federal Coordinating Committee on CER, which was established by the Recovery Act to coordinate CER across the federal government. This committee issued its own report on June 30 as well, detailing the current investment in CER and summarizing the public input it has received.